I hear a familiar refrain from some people lately that frankly makes my blood boil, perhaps you’ve heard it too:
“I’m so tired of politics. I just wish we could just get back to pictures of puppies and babies on social media!”
On its face it sounds reasonable enough—but it’s also an insult.
Do you know who probably isn’t saying that right now?
Jewish Day School teachers
The people of Standing Rock
Those about to lose healthcare
People with brown skin in cities, near borders, at airports
Single parents who rely on reduced lunches
Women who believe birth control is a right
Undocumented immigrants trying to craft a new life
Muslims raising kids in America
Parents of Transgender children
People with family in the Military—
The luxury of tiring of “politics” is itself a form of privilege. It is a sign that someone is so insulated from the fear and disenfranchisement others are currently experiencing—that they are able to see these things as inconvenience, as histrionics, as annoyances. They are able to tire of the suffering of others and to suggest that this suffering is ruining their good mood. To them, someone else’s pain begins to feel like an intrusion.
The only people wanting political discussions stopped right now, either wrongly believe they aren’t impacted by politics or they’ve lost the ability to be burdened for another human being. In either case, that fatigue is a symptom of a privilege that can afford apathy.
I’m all for puppies and babies. I’ve been firmly in the Puppy/Baby camp for decades. We surely need some softness and joy to temper the hard and horrible things happening around us. Puppies and babies are part of those simple, beautiful things that make life wonderful. They are a sweet, necessary, and welcome distraction—but they are not enough right now.
In these moments, we can’t just settle with the cheap anesthetic of easy things and nice feelings that numb us into complacency, because that is what powerful, malevolent people are counting on. They are counting on us exceeding our threshold for compassion and attention. They are betting that their ability to manufacture suffering will outlast our ability to care—and we can’t let that happen.
This means we have to do the hard work: we have to read and study and understand, that we have to dig deeper and engage, that we have to use every resource at our disposal to boost the signal of those who are not being heard. We have to put on our Big People Pants and sustain our focus longer than 140 characters, so that we can responsibly steward all that we’ve been entrusted with. Justice is not something that comes easily, quickly, or without discomfort.
In our social media profiles and our daily conversations, we have to make space for difficult, uncomfortable, unpleasant things. We have to have wade into the messy, mundane, and not-fun realities about our political process and face the gravity of these moments together.
In fact, we need to wrestle with these difficult things now, in order to craft a future for our children where they have less difficult things; so that they can inherit a safer, kinder, cleaner, more diverse, more loving planet.
We need to be willing to be burdened beyond our current capacity for empathy and activism, so that we leave them something worth inheriting: a life filled with puppies and babies.